Erie, Pennsylvania, and the Great Lake it sits on are just three hours’ drive from Morgantown.
Still hoping for watery horizons this summer—but not psyched for the time, expense, and potential COVID exposure of a crowded Atlantic beach vacation? Erie, Pennsylvania, can scratch your itch. There’s plenty of beach for distancing and, at just three hours’ drive away, it’s perfect for a day trip or a satisfying weekend.
There in time for lunch. If you leave after breakfast and drive straight north on Interstate 79, you’ll be exiting for Erie about the time your stomach starts growling. There are interesting independent lunch spots all over town—try Give a Crepe, part of the Erie Hill District Collaborative that’s bringing new life to its neighborhood. Owner Stephanie Klassen makes a tasty ham, cheese, and spinach crepe she calls the Mr. Sir, along with a tempting list of other savory and sweet creations. Stop in at Tipsy Bean next door for a coffee drink that will fuel the rest of your day.
Swim, sun, paddle, or bike. After lunch, head to Presque Isle State Park. The lake side of the peninsula has so many beaches, each with its own character—shallow water, open water, lots of families, quiet spots—even one where people fly kites. Presque Isle Bay on the city side offers calm water for kayaking. And a paved bike trail paralleling the five-mile circuit road passes through shady woods and past an ecological preserve. Kayak rentals are easy to find near the park and arrange online; for bikes, Yellow Bike Rental Co. right in the park is easy.
Fruit and vegetable stop. The Lake Erie region is known for its great produce. On your way out of the park, Mason Farms Country Market, just off the peninsula, is a cornucopia of the best of what’s in season.
Ice cream makes it a perfect day. Bruster’s Real Ice Cream, just around the block from Mason’s market, has creative flavors of small-batch ice cream, all made locally. Don’t skip the fresh waffle cone.
If you’re making a weekend of it, you’ll have no trouble filling a second day. A two-decade community commitment to the Lake Erie Arboretum at Frontier Park has created named plantings, walking trails, and a labyrinth, making it a restful spot near the center of the city. And Klassen at the creperie highly recommends the Erie Art Museum—as it happens, West Virginia’s own Brett Kern, known for his ceramic dinosaur inflatable-lookalikes, has an exhibit there through September.
photographed by Pam Kasey